Rs600m sanctioned for free treatment of cancer patients

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has approved a new drug to make the free cancer treatment programme more effective.

The government also sanctioned Rs600 million to start second phase of the cancer treatment programme, launched by the previous government.

“On Tuesday, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak gave administrative approval to the free cancer treatment programme for another three years under which 450 patients would get full diagnostic and cure facilities,” Prof Abid Jameel, head of the oncology ward at Hayatabad Medical Complex, told Dawn.

The programme entitled ‘Treatment of Poor Blood Cancer Patients’ was started by Awami National Party government in 2011. The programme was extended after an independent evaluation carried by the government showed that it benefited 800 patients till 2014.

Inclusion of new drug to make the programme more effective

The previous government had allocated Rs578 million for the first-ever free cancer treatment programme in the country.

“During the previous arrangement, we provided single drug oral medication to patients but it was not effective to a desired level as about 20 to 25 per cent patients didn’t respond.

Now we have included another drug that will increase cure rate to 80-85 per cent,” Prof Abid said.

He said that they would give the first drug to the patient to see its response. “After clinical and diagnostically examinations, we will add the second drugs if patients have resistance to the first one,” he said.

He added that they had an option to provide the best available treatment to the patients.

Prof Abid said that the incumbent provincial government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had directed the health department to treat patients on first come first serve basis because the treatment was costly and people couldn’t afford it.

He said that cost of treatment for a single patient was from Rs1.5 million to Rs3 million for at least three consecutive years owing to which the patients left their treatment incomplete.

He said that course of treatment regime could last for eight years. “Therefore, no one will be denied free treatment,” he said.

A Switzerland-based pharmacy, with which the government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), was in the process of supplying two types of tablets before inauguration of the second phase of the programme in the last week of November.

Prof Abid said that the province registered 20 to 25 blood cancer patients every month but all of them couldn’t afford the expensive medication.

“The government has also agreed to further extend the programme upon its completion,” he added.

Prof Abid said that 60 to 70 per cent of the blood cancer patients were in age group of 35 to 40 years, the most productive period of life, and non-availability of free treatment could kill them.

“However, we have achieved the target set forth in the first phase of the programme and have started registering people for the second one,” he said.

The government also dispatched letters to the district headquarters hospitals in the province to refer blood cancer patients for free treatment, Prof Abid said.

Besides treatment, they were also visiting different districts to scale up awareness level regarding preventable cancers like skin, lungs and liver etc, he said.

“From December, we have planned awareness sessions for doctors and patients. We will visit one district every month to inform people about causative agents of cancer,” Dr Abid said.

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Written by Ashfaq Yusufzai

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